Features

Science Fiction Found Itself in China This Year

Words by: Jonathon Davidson


China has effectively made history on three different occasions in the industrial scientific sectors this year, in the same period of time the Hugo Award For Best Novel went to The Three Body Problem by Chinese author Liu Cixin, a science fiction novel which has reinvigorated science fiction as a genre in the country – click the link to check out an analysis of the novel’s influence following its 2008 release.

Insert some play on words about truth and fiction here. Because alongside the literary world, the advancements in science we’re talking about are pretty futuristic themselves.

In April this year, in a world first, China genetically modified human embryos (and admitted it to the world.) This has long been considered a ‘no-no’ by geneticists and ethicists everywhere, and there was even a global summit similar to g20 except on gene editing a few months ago. There were rumours surrounding this research before it came out, and the early-mid months of this year contained no shortage of debate. At any rate, I’m just putting it out there that maybe growing artificial human organs inside pigs or something is more ethical than harvesting them from ethnic minorities and death row prisoners. Yes, that is also legitimately a thing that happens.

Maybe because the Chinese military had spies in Hollywood waiting on the release of Star Wars, or maybe because I’m paranoid and can’t comprehend coincidence, but China unveiled a new laser weapons system a few weeks before the release of Star Wars which in itself meets the Hollywood standard of “Star Wars Tier Laser.” The new weapon can burn a drone out of the air from 2 miles away with a laser beam shot out of a giant light cannon microscope thing. I know, right – hardcore weaponry. Pos vibes. Still, pretty much inherent to the sci-fi genre, further putting my case to rest.

But these were just entrees in the face of China’s biggest advancement this year, if we define it in terms of scientific progress and also economic impact – the mass production of cloned beef has been approved by the Chinese government. The practice has been going on since the early 2000s, but only this year did the cloning of livestock become approved and mandated to occur on an industrial scale, feeding significant portions of the population. Maybe it doesn’t sound like much, but that’s huge. Imagine the conversations shopping with kids:

“Where does that meat come from Daddy?”
“It comes from cows.”
“Where do cows come from?”
“They’re all cloned from a cow that lived a long, long time ago.”

That is now a conversation that will be actually happening in China between kids and adults, and that is sci-fi as fuck. But the numbers are big, too – the factory intends to breed one million cow clones a year, costing – somewhat surprisingly – $43m AUD. I’m not a millionaire, but double digits isn’t bad for a fucking biological cloning conglomerate. That is the plot to so many science fiction texts right there. Speaking of conglomerates, the CEO of Chinese cloning company Boyalife, who are an accessory to the mass breeding program, recently told reporters that they have the technology to clone humans, if they so desired.

This is all pretty impressive stuff, and a sign that we’re in for an interesting lifetime. Personally, I can’t wait for horror campfire stories to undergo a comeback in China when something somewhere eventually escapes from a lab and causes havoc in a rural village.